Julie Smilodon catalogingJulie Moore is an award-winning catalog librarian who is most content in her quiet corner of library, meticulously examining and researching items, from rare books to three-dimensional objects. She works behind-the-scenes to create the best possible cataloging record so that our library users can easily search for and find the resource at hand. She is also a skilled and passionate cataloging instructor who is highly sought-after nationally.

Most recently, she conducted a webinar on cataloging three-dimensional objects for the 23 California State University (CSU) libraries’ catalog librarians and staff members, in a ULMS (Unified Library Management System) Technical Services webinar series called, “Safer at Home.” The host of the series, Luiz Mende (CSU Northridge) thought that this might be a good option to provide cataloging professional development to our catalogers during this time while we are all working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic closure of the CSU library buildings.

Julie was eager to provide instruction on how to catalog objects, because of the recent publication, Best Practices for Cataloging Objects Using RDA and MARC 21, created by the Objects Best Practices Task Force, Cataloging Policy Committee (CAPC) Online Audiovisual Catalogers, Inc. (OLAC). Julie chaired the task force in writing these best practices.

Like many instructional faculty members, Julie was much more accustomed to teaching and connecting with her students in person. When she volunteered to do the first “Safer at Home” webinar, like many instructors during spring semester, Julie faced the challenge head on and dove into figuring out how to use Zoom to teach her webinar. She attended training sessions with JoLynne Blake from Center for Faculty Excellence over the course of several weeks and spent hours putting together the best verisimilitude of an in-person workshop that she could. Thankfully, all of that hard work paid off.

In preparing for the webinar, she scoured her home for a three-dimensional object that might be of interest to catalog. Her son is a budding paleontologist, so there are a number of prehistoric possibilities from which to choose. She decided to use a Smilodon skull replica as a good example of a three-dimensional object to catalog. It was also a nice icebreaker question: What is California’s State Fossil? (The answer is the Saber-toothed cat, Smilodon californicus, of course! This species was common to California some 40 million years ago.) She was pleased that someone actually knew the answer to this question.

The participants were quite attentive and engaged, asking great questions. They were generous with compliments and gratitude after the webinar, in spite of technical difficulties. One of the participants was Dr. Linda Dobb, herself a librarian and cataloging instructor as well as Associate Provost at CSU, East Bay. Dr. Dobb had this to say about the workshop:

Just a big thank you for the recent “cataloging objects” webinar!  It was fantastic!  I am teaching cataloging for library technicians at Diablo Valley College. Listening to your webinar reinforced so much of what I am teaching them (particularly the sanctity of MARC). It is also a great example of how catalogers constantly should keep educating themselves on things! I was just so impressed that you made the webinar available, recorded it twice, you are a Margaret Mann citation winner — not the first such at Fresno, but totally impressive.

Julie Smilodon cataloging teaching via ZoomLife is funny! Five years ago, Julie would never have guessed the answer to the frequently asked question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” as: Julie will be teaching cataloging to the CSU catalogers via Zoom, sitting at her kitchen table with her laptop, a Smilodon skull, and a measuring tape!

Of course, there were technical difficulties. As soon as the webinar began, Julie noticed several chat messages concerning an “annoying clicking noise” … and Luiz, the host, needed to interrupt to ask people to be sure to mute themselves a couple times. The host was troubleshooting. So there she was, trying to talk about the Smilodon, measuring the Smilodon, and pointing out details about the Smilodon that should be recorded in the cataloging record. While teaching, Julie was watching the chat for questions, noticing that the chat messages were saying that the clicking noises were happening only while she was talking! Well, that was a bit of a problem, but she soldiered through the presentation, clicking all the way.

As it turned out, the clicking noise was coming from her headset, which chose the inopportune moment of the live webinar to die a slow and noisy death. Lesson learned: always have a back-up headset!

Since Julie wanted to make the webinar available to people who could not attend, she made a second, cleaner recording (with a new headset.)  Because this was the second time around, she was able to incorporate some of the questions and answers from the participants into the webinar. While teaching is not new to Julie, using Zoom was undeniably a new challenge. Before the pandemic crisis, she likely never would have tried teaching three-dimensional objects cataloging in a two-dimensional world. Julie commented:

It is one of those silver-lining moments of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, as I probably would not have taught this particular cataloging topic online before the crisis. I still prefer to teach face-to-face, but it did reach more participants than I normally can gather in a face-to-face program at California Library Association (CLA) or American Library Association (ALA) conferences. There were 55 live participants (and this was limited to catalogers of the CSUs). I am sure that many more will watch the webinar since it was posted online.

It took a pandemic to compel Julie to teach online, but she now sees the “pros” along with the “cons.” She has a newfound confidence in her online teaching toolkit and ability to reach even more current and aspiring catalogers. Up next … Julie will be doing a Screencast lesson for OLAC (the Online Audiovisual Catalogers) in June. Stay tuned! Julie is paying forward what her cataloging instructors did for her so many decades ago … the silver lining, indeed.


Julie Moore is the Special Collections Catalog Librarian at the Henry Madden Library where she has been a library faculty member for over 15 years. 

Written by Tammy Lau, Head of Special Collections Research Center & University Archivist
and Julie Moore, Special Collections Catalog Librarian.
Photos by Sammy Iliff.